The Windup

Following the overturn of PASPA, betting in American Sports can finally be realized when state and federal infrastructure is in place. This new horizon in fan engagement increased the interest in the development of gaming infrastructure among professional sports leagues. One of the first to express interest and engage Genius Sports in the development of a solution was Major League Baseball. We partnered with MGM to help leverage a supported solution crafted for a Las Vegas audience. Our demographics were limited to Nevada as part of a first stage MVP.

 

The Pitch

Market Analysis

During initial phases of the project, there were multiple sets of behaviors, cultures and limitations we had to consider. Even though the long term goal is service a fully regulated, recreational betting demographic within the USA, for the time being the segments we focused on were limited in scope in order to create valid assumptions for quick prototype development and proof of concept – The following is a list of user segments we will draw our assumptions from:

  • Fans who Like Baseball
  • Fans who don’t like Baseball – but may like betting
  • Fans who know very little about Baseball, more about betting
  • Currently a bettor in a fully regulated market
  • Currently a bettor in a partly regulated market
  • Currently a bettor in an unregulated market
  • Not currently a bettor (control)
  • Favors betting Pre-Match, allowed to bet In Play
  • Bets Pre-Match, not allowed to bet In Play
  • Favors In-Play betting

Research Effort

Ultimately we wanted to find new ways to transform what in-play betting looks like in the US market and find ways for fans to deepen their connection to the game.

Our key hypothesis that we hoped to validate with research is that in-play betting will massively increase fan engagement by the very nature of a continuous and dynamic odds offering throughout the game.

While generating a prototype will focus on how a fan might interact with this future betting product during a game, the goal of the research was to inform why and when someone would seek to interact with the product, in order to maximize our ability to deliver value and enhanced engagement for both fans and MLB.

Research Proposal to the Group

Research Mission Statement : Our central focus is to understand the role betting can play in deepening meaningful fan engagement in baseball. 

As a UX team, we proposed a 2-day exploratory research effort around opening day (Thursday, March 29, 2018) in Las Vegas to help us define:

  • Who are the likely target users for an MLB betting product? Based on their needs, where are the greatest opportunities to design features, bet types, and offers they would find engaging and exciting?
  • How are people currently consuming content and engaging with live baseball and betting?
  • What existing routines, rituals, and context can we tap into as we look to design something they will want to use?
  • What aspects of the game are most meaningful for fans and how do we build a product that reflects these authentic aspects of the game?

Qualitative Observation

The majority of our time would be spent observing individual baseball fans and recording their interactions with their environment, ideally in either the sports betting area of a casino in Las Vegas, or a sports bar or venue where similar behaviors might take place. Specifically we’ll hope to capture data on:

  • When, how, and for what are individuals using devices while watching games?
  • In what environments and with whom are fans consuming live baseball and what role, if any, does betting play right now?

Contextual Inquiry

As we observed, we would carefully interject key clarifying questions as well as closing out our session with participants with a brief (20-30 minute) interview to follow up on any motivations or trends noted during the observation. We may ask things like:

  • What makes a great or memorable game?
  • What challenges or frustrations do you find with betting offerings now (or with the idea of placing a bet)?
  • (If has engaged in betting) How are bets selected and what tools or content do individuals find most important or helpful?

Research Details

Our ideal venue will be to be on the floor of the MGM casino; as a back-up we can also recruit in sports bars or other common areas in the city featuring opening day events. We plan to follow one fan before, during, and after a game for up to 3 hours, with two observers assigned to each fan. Based on the game day schedule for 28 and 29 March, and an overall team of four, we would be able to observe four different fans across two different games each day, including teams with strong followings like the Astros, Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees.

We requested a $3000 budget for this research effort.

Timeline

  1. Planning
  2. Research Team Prep
  3. Conduct Research
  4. Synthesis of results
  5. Preliminary findings
  6. Pitch

Pitch to the MLB

The research resulted in valuable findings that allowed us to paint a clear picture for our commercial team to develop a presentation that kicked off the development of the MLB Betting App.

See the Pitch Presentation

The Swing

UX Strategy

Strategic Goals of Prototype

  • To show that we can take our current assets (baseball betting product), and develop ideas on how we can display this betting information alongside assets from MLB such as their At Bat app and website display.
  • To show MLB that we have some creative ideas for the future of this product such as strike-zone betting, where the ball will land from the next hit, and box-score bingo.
  • To show that in-play betting will be something new and innovative for the vast majority of baseball fans and will itself massively increase fan engagement by the very nature of a continuous odds offering throughout the game, changing depending on the actions and outcomes on the pitch.
  • To reiterate our position as the betting experts, and show MLB how creative we can be when it comes to the UI.

Strategy Problem Statement

The research findings show a broad range of feelings around betting in baseball. We are trying to create a product that is value-weighted towards the most common bettor wants and needs. This creates a very limited value for most people interested in betting. But where the interest lies is with the bettors who will be most likely to spend money and find the engagement of a second-screen experience more valuable. We must deliver a solution that inhibits the normal behavior and betting patterns of our target demo – the casual bettor, with money to spend, bets on teams they know and usually bets with emotion over explicit knowledge. We will validate our assumptions by follow-up user testing with the same group of bettors (same demographic range).

Design Assumptions

Early on during the strategy briefing, we wrote up some assumptions we’d model our design around. These assumptions were crafted from some of the analysis and findings of the research team. Since this prototype was limited in scope and would be a scripted demonstration for the MLB, our assumptions we’re narrowed down to the following:

  1. Bettors are more interested in In-Play betting
  2. Bettors want to be able to socially share their activity
  3. Bettors want a second-screen experience – App should be complementary to the live game experience
  4. Bettors want to be able to place small bets (micro-transactional)

Functional Requirements

  • Show live games as well as upcoming games in the season calendar (to prepare for futures betting)
  • Show in-play betting engagement
    • Various Market Types
  • Display live game information and statistics
  • Display video feed and betting overlay
  • Bet builder
  • Bet slip
  • Cashout feature
  • Social Sharing

Product Owner Input

  • Coupon-style view of all games on a single day – could be a pre-game view with pre-game odds displayed.
  • Single Match view with betting markets displayed under a scoreboard/visualization of the in-play baseball match.
  • Single match interactive view based on existing MLB assets with lots of context-specific content (e.g. odds superimposed on strike zone segments for next pitch; odds superimposed on the plan view of the field for where the next “ball put into play” will land)
  • Ideas for “soft” games like “box score bingo” (put a cross in each half inning where you think there’ll be a run scored, with a fixed payoff chart given how many crosses you enter).
  • Ideas for “teaser” bets like selecting a 3-game Parlay where you bet on multiple markets to happen for a return.

User Persona

Eduardo “Eddie” Gonzalez 

  • 38 years old
  • Married with 2 young children
  • Living in Los Angeles, California
  • Interested in casual betting
  • Consumes baseball on television, and his mobile device

“I bleed Dodger blue!”

Eddie’s Goals & Needs

  • Eddie wants to feel closer to the game and more engaged in the action
  • He feels like he has enough baseball knowledge to make wise bets and would like a platform that enables that easily (and legally)
  • He wants something on his phone, because he doesn’t want to be tied to a chair at a sportsbook
  • He wants to be able to brag on his wins

Eddie’s Motivation

  • His love for the game extends beyond the game itself – he’s a stat junkie and pays close attention to games that might affect his team or favorite players
  • He wants to be able to have a little more fun – betting makes the game more exciting. He’s very interested in in-play bets.
  • Bragging rights

Eddie’s Frustrations

  • Likes betting, but doesn’t like to make private bets
  • Doesn’t want to feel like he needs to bet a lot of money to have fun
  • Wants to be able to bet on in-play markets but hasn’t been able to

Selected rough wire frames

The Hit

UI Design

Selected hi-res screens

View Prototype

password: B3tg3niu5

Homerun

Validation

User Survey

Preliminaries

Goal: Set the participant at ease and set expectations for the session

  • 45-60 minute interview
  • Introduce everyone in the room
  • Review consent form and NDA (should have signed it digitally in advance of interview) , can stop interview at any time
  • Brief roadmap (questions + prototype [the idea that it is incomplete and explain it]) Today we’ll be…
  • Emphasize: we’re not the ones who designed this, so we won’t be offended!
  • Start recording through proto.io

Introduction and background (10 min)

Goal: Build rapport and understand connection to baseball as a fan; gain context about consumption of baseball content and any betting experience

Tell us how you became a baseball fan.
  • Who is your favorite team?
  • What do you find most exciting about the sport?
Walk us through the last time you watched a live game.

Reference key behaviors we learned about from screener.

  • Where were you?
  • What game was it?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • During the height of baseball season, how often do you get live game updates?
  • Did you have your phone? Did you use it for anything? How typical is this for you?
How do you like to watch baseball?

Reference key channels (MLB.tv, live vs. after game, etc) we learned about from screener.

●      Why this way?

●      What do you find frustrating or lacking about watching this way?

Transition to prototype review (30 min)

1. Selecting odds

Scenario: Participant is on a weekend trip to Vegas with a friend; sees an ad while watching a live baseball game between the Braves and Bluejays. Downloads the app and opens it.

Screen to focus on: Odds selection

Ask Follow-up on
Let’s say you received an ad to download this app on your phone. You’ve just done that and opened the app. Tell us what you see. Tell us about your first impressions.
  • What do you think this app does?
Looking at the options presented, tell us what you think each means.
  • Which option are you MOST likely to click on? Why?
  • What do you expect to see next?

2. Finding content of interest

Scenario: You decide to select standard odds and move forward. Show us how you would do that.

Screen to focus on: Featured/upcoming games

Ask Follow-up on
Take a minute to explore and tell us what you see.

First notices scores and the way it’s laid out. Wants to click on Features.

Knowing that it’s a betting app, expectations are somewhat met. Wondering what all the things actually mean…is there something to explain?

What are the rules to the betting? How can I get more information on what the numbers mean?

Interested in exploring Features next – because this page just has numbers, feels like it’s not something he needs, he wants to know more.

  • How does this align with your expectations?
  • What are you most interested in exploring next? Why?
  • What, if anything, do you find confusing on this screen, why?
How does this screen compare to other mobile experiences where you look at baseball content?
  • What’s the same?
  • What’s different?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s better or worse?

3. Watching a live game

Scenario: You decide you want to see what’s happening live in the Braves vs. Bluejays game. Show us how you would do that and talk aloud while you do.

Screen to focus on: Live/in game betting screen as well as hit area, in the zone, and base or bust

Ask Follow-up on
Take a minute to explore and tell us what you see.

User will step through or skip walkthrough

  • How does this align or not with your expectations?
  • What, if anything, did you find confusing, why?
Select something you’re most interested in exploring next, tell us what you would expect to see, and then show us what how you would go about doing that.
  • Describe a time at a game from your recent past where you might be able to imagine yourself using this feature. How do you picture doing that (if at all)?
  • What, if anything, did you find confusing or frustrating about this feature?
Repeat similar question flow as above; allow or prompt user to explore until we’ve covered at least (if they don’t select any of these…prompt with: Let’s say you wanted to…):

  • watch live
  • hit area
  • In the zone
  • base or bust

GOAL: Step through 3 out of 4 features.

  • Which of the features you saw did you find MOST interesting?
  • How valuable was this to you on a scale from 1 (not at all valuable) to 5 (very valuable)? Why?
  • Which of the features you saw did you find LEAST interesting? Why?

4. Betting on a future game

Scenario: Your friend arrives and notices you using the app. This friend is a Detroit Tigers fan and wants to see what the app might have related to that team.

Screens to focus on: More bets, box bingo, prop bets, lineup/stats

Ask Follow-up on
Your friend wants to see more about the upcoming Orioles / Tigers game. Show us how you would go about finding what might be there, talking aloud throughout.
  • (Any difficulties encountered or if the flow was different than expected.)
Take a minute to explore and tell us: what stands out to you most? Why?

How is this different than what you were looking at previously?

  • Hone in on “more bets” the participant finds of interest: why are they intriguing?
  • How would you expect to interact with this?
  • Is there missing information that you would find valuable here? If so, what?
Let’s say you and your friend want to check out “box bingo.” Show us how you would do that, talking aloud throughout.

Pretend I’ve never seen this before. Explain to me: what is this and how does it work?

  • How clear was this to you?
  • Describe to me how you might imagine yourself using this feature. How do you picture doing that (if at all)?
Let’s say you and your friend want to check out “player props.” Show us how you would do that, talking aloud throughout.

Pretend I’ve never seen this before. Explain to me: what are these?

  • Are you interested in selecting any of these? If so, which ones?
  • Is there anything you DIDN’T you see here that you would have liked to?
What types of information would you expect to see in the “Lineup” tab? You decide to see what “lineup” has to offer.

Show us how you would navigate to “lineup” and tell us what you see.

  • How well does this align with your expectations?
  • How might you use this information?
  • If you could add one thing to this page to make it more valuable, what would it be? Why?

Closing out (5 min)

Goal: Obtain overall impressions and any feedback not tied to a task or question

  • We have a few rating questions we’d like to ask you. It’s less about the number and more about the reasoning and thought behind it so please share with us your honest feedback.
    • How valuable did you find the content in the app overall? (1- not at all, 5- very valuable)
    • How easy was it to find content of interest? (1- not at all easy, 5- very easy)
    • How likely would you be to use this app again? (1-not at all likely, 5-very likely)
    • How likely would you be to recommend this to a friend or family member? (1-not at all likely, 5-very likely)
  • After seeing this app are you more, equally, or less likely to watch a live game?
  • Can you imagine this changing how you watch or experience baseball?
  • Who do you think might use this app?
  • That’s all we’ve got! Is there anything you were hoping we would ask but didn’t?
  • Any other feedback to share?

Summary

Were our assumptions right?

  1. Bettors are more interested in In-Play betting
    We found that betters loved the idea of the in-play feature. Baseball is the perfect sport for in-play because there are natural pauses in the game – most notably the pitch. Gives plenty of time between batters and pitches for bettors to place a “quick” bet on the next hit.
  2. Bettors want to be able to socially share their activity
    We found this feature to be a little controversial. The bettors we interviewed split about 50/50 in finding value in this feature. The social share could cause unwanted attention where gambling wasn’t legal. Others felt this was a fun way to engage others who might be interested in sports betting.
  3. Bettors want a second-screen experience – App should be complementary to the live game experience
    Bettors like the idea of having a companion screen, they love being able to pull up stats, line-ups and other vital information during a game. If this app was being used in a casino, bettors didn’t feel like they had to be glued to the sportsbook – the live feed was enough.
  4. Bettors want to be able to place small bets (micro-transactional)
    Bettors want to be able to load up a wallet and spend more on bets they feel more comfortable with (like in play) where they felt the odds were slightly more in their favor given the knowledge of the game. They also like the idea of pre-spend bets where the wagers were locked in automatically to provide a good winning if the player picked the right pre-match condition.

This prototyping project ultimately led to further discussions with the MLB who thought our work was not only thorough, but proved there was a viable market who would see value in an app like this.

This project is currently in development.